26.1 | Barnita Bagchi

Must there be Apocalypse? An Analysis of South Asian Speculative Fiction

This article will focus on colonial and postcolonial speculative fiction from South Asia, and ask how, in a geographical region which is culturally and religiously hybrid, we can ‘translate’ the originally Eurocentric terms apocalypse, utopia, and dystopia, and how these can be related. In the nineteenth century, the Hindu notion of cyclical cosmic time, and specifically the last age in that cycle, Kaliyuga, became embedded in historic-cultural anxiety. Fears about the power that women and lower castes were mythically supposed to enjoy in that age found obvious historical, real-life correlates in the growth of women’s and lower-caste agency. In this context, my article will focus on three South Asian writers of speculative fiction, each of whom makes gender-egalitarian and subaltern agency central in their work: Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, the colonial Bengali Muslim writer of speculative fiction from India/Bangladesh, Amitav Ghosh, the contemporary diasporic Indian postcolonial writer, and Vandana Singh, also a contemporary Indo-American writer of science fiction, speculative fiction, and children’s fiction.